8 December 2017



'We love each other, and we've made our love into a terrible chain that hurts us with every step.'

This is the saddest love story ever, with the exception maybe of Noel Coward's BRIEF ENCOUNTER, the saddest film ever made, bar none. Yes, I know that WATERSHIP DOWN is very sad too but BRIEF ENCOUNTER just edges it for me, lol. Cute endangered rabbits notwithstanding...

I love a good sniffle into a hanky while watching a film, and if it's caused by the plot of the movie, well, so much the better, lol. I had a terrifically miserable time watching 56, RUE PIGALLE and therefore I recommend it heartily to any of my readers out there (I know that there are at least two of you, I have your e-mail addresses, haha!) who enjoy a good sad film also.

We'll leave the comedies to the happy folk out there. There are some of us who prefer a good wallow in the pain and suffering of fictional characters. Why'd ye think I read LITTLE WOMEN every Christmas...? Heh-heh-heh. Let's take our customary quick look at the plot.

Jean Vigneron is a French (well, they're all French; it's a French film!) naval engineer and a celebrated yachtsman in his spare time. During a sailboat race, his vessel is clipped by the boat of a rather mysterious, attractive brunette female, a chance encounter that sets off a chain of events that soon takes on a momentum all of its own.

The woman is the beautiful but desperately unhappy Ines de Montalban, the wife of the super-rich South American businessman Ricardo de Montalban. This Ricardo fellow phones up Jean and arranges for the three of them to meet up for lunch, so that Ines can apologise in person for pranging Jean's boat.

I'm not sure if Jean ever gets the promised apology, but he and Ines immediately (can't you guess?) fall in love. She's much younger than her hubby, quite obviously a trophy wife and, as she tells Jean herself, she's sick to death of his gambling, drinking and womanising. I'm also sensing undertones of domestic abuse here too, possibly. Ricardo is a forceful man and he may quite easily be a bully towards Ines also. She has the air of a woman accustomed to maltreatment.

The newly-created couple, Jean and Ines, make the fatal mistake of expressing their love for each other in letters, as was the style of the time. The letters fall into the hands of Jean's sneaky valet, Lucien Bonnet, who's not above a spot of blackmail to earn himself a few grubby francs. Jean pays the exorbitant agreed-upon sum but then, a terrible event occurs at the titular 56, Rue Pigalle that turns the lives of Jean, Ines and Ricardo upside-down forever...

The film is beautifully shot in black-and-white. The scenes set in the leafy, verdant but rainy Congo are just gorgeous to look at. The courtroom drama bits are great too, but I think I prefer the Congo scenes overall. There are some bare boobies on display from the native women, which was rather daring even for 1949. Naughty Willy Rozier...!

I love the scene in the nightclub where Nadia is singing so meaningfully and pointedly about the love that never ends that Ricardo snaps and belts her right in the kisser. He knows damned well that her little ditty is meant for him, so Nadia can't really complain if he reacts in exactly the way she must have known he would. Silly Nadia.

This wonderful but seldom-seen film noir from Willy Rozier comes free, gratis and for nothing as an extra feature with his other, better-known film, MANINA, THE LIGHTHOUSE-KEEPER'S DAUGHTER, also known as MANINA, THE GIRL IN THE BIKINI. That film is out now in a special Blu-Ray release from EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT.

Brigitte Bardot stars as Manina in one of her earliest roles and it's a great old adventure film about treasure-hunting but I really think I prefer 56, RUE PIGALLE. Its misery scale is off the charts on account of all the thwarted love and so on, and that always appeals to me more than other cinematic themes, however tantalising they may appear.

I must tell you guys about another extremely interesting extra feature on the MANINA disc. In Paris on October 6th 1949, the director of the two above-mentioned films, Willy Rozier, fought a duel, an actual three-minute old-fashioned duel, with doctors and seconds on hand and everything, with a film critic called Francois Chalais.

Chalais had pissed Rozier off big-time by slagging off 56, RUE PIGALLE. I've seen this film and I can tell you that it's really, really good, so God knows what Chalais was basing his opinions on. Anyway, Rozier was the better fencer in the end and the duel concluded swiftly when he nicked Chalais lightly on the arm.

The full duel is included for your viewing pleasure on the MANINA disc. It makes for utterly incredible watching. Two grown men, in a park in Paris, it looks like, slugging it out over an insult one man had dealt the other. How was this even legal? The whole thing is bizarre and eccentric and even kind of funny in a seriously warped kind of way, and it's all there on camera for the world to remember.

I wonder if I could get away with challenging my own critics to a duel, the way Homer Simpson 'glove-slapped' folks who'd done him injury in the episode of THE SIMPSONS about the 'tomacco.' Thing is, I don't fence and I don't own any swords or know of any doctors who'd be cuckoo enough to condone such a wacky act of madness by attending. Better stick to hiding behind my computer, I suppose. That's how everyone else does it, lol. Ain't life grand...?


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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